A Twist in the Tale: Nontraditional Pets


By Jenny Kalahar

Did you adopt a new pet for Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza or a December birthday and don’t know what to do with him? Pets are fun if you’re prepared, but certain, less traditional, pets can leave you scratching your head over their proper care and handling. Everyone has advice for those just starting out with a cat or dog, but what about those more unusual pets?

Here are a few pointers, hints, tips and suggestions to make life in your now-exciting home or apartment less vexing.

Rubber chicken: A staple of joke shops and the inner pocket of a typical clown’s coat, the rubber chicken has found new popularity as a pet for today’s busiest folks. A whole mini industry has sprung up creating and selling RC accessories and clothing. Instagram is filled with photos of the many vacations RCs have taken with their human companions—from the Eiffel Tower to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts, and blogs galore are now written by or devoted to these floppy dears. But if you’ve been given a rubber chicken, take this advice: don’t set him or her in a rocking chair too close to the fireplace. Misshaping can occur, and his colors may run together. Also, like real chickens, they don’t enjoy lengthy political luncheons.

Pet rock: Trendy in the 1970s, the pet rock has since fallen out of favor as an indoor companion. Nearly everyone has had some experience with at least one rock in their lifetime, whether wild in the woods, tamed as part of a gravel drive, or one of the many strays on the streets in so many towns and cities. If you were gifted a pet rock over the holidays, you should keep it indoors and out of the elements, as they temporarily turn a darker color when wet. This is one of the easiest of creatures to keep at peak health, but falls from a shelf or the top of the refrigerator could cause irreparable damage, so caution is advised.

Stuffies: Mother Nature’s synthetic representatives are great for folks unable to keep a cat or dog in their fancy high-rise, or in the attic of their mother-in-law’s Victorian. Flea-free and usually hypoallergenic, stuffed animals are perfect starter pets. They are available in a wide variety: alligators to zebras, cockatoos to kinkajous, and lemurs to leopards. Coloring, however, is not always true to life, so if you come to love a stuffed purple Pekinese and then want to move up to the real dog, know that your local shelter will not be able to get one of those for you to adopt.


Ode to the Nontraditional Pet

Round the tree or in the woods

In gravel drive in your neighborhood

On the shelf with googly eyes

The pet rock is love in disguise


A rubber chicken won’t eat much

He’s light and tender to the touch

While used to being the butt of jokes

He’s actually a sensitive bloke


Stuffies are there for you when you please

Their “fur” will never make you sneeze

And if you want snuggles or laughs

You can’t go wrong with a striped giraffe


Jenny Kalahar, her husband Patrick, and their pets live in Indiana where she sells used and rare books and writes novels and poetry. Her two novels about fostering cats are Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats, and The Find of a Lifetime: Another Tale of Used Books and Cats. Her collection of nostalgic and humorous poetry is One Mile North of Normal and Other Poems. For more, visit her blog, Bookselling and Writing with Weegee.

More from Jenny:

Santa’s Sauna

Natural Science Lessons for the Gullible

Krafting Kitties


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